TODAY, A REVIEW of some of our chief executive's thoughts on tourism, 'one of our pillar industries', as uttered in a speech on Monday to a big international pow-wow - Tourist Development Under a New Paradigm (I'll take 10 pennies for that dime, thank you). 'Our investment in this sector is based on a practical reality: tourism offers wide economic benefits.' Let us look at these benefits more closely and from the perspective that if you buy something for two dimes and sell it for three, then your benefit is one dime, not three. Economic benefit in tourism is calculated on a net basis, just as it is in trade. If we export $3 worth of goods and import $2 worth, the contribution to our gross domestic product is $1, not $3. And, as the first chart shows, if you subtract what Hong Kong residents spend on trips abroad from what visitors spend on trips here, then in the past four years, Hong Kong has taken a net loss, not a net gain from tourism. Some benefit, Mr Tung. You may, however, comfort yourself, sir, that the overall impact is a small one. We are talking of the equivalent of little more than 2 per cent of GDP at its worst - some pillar industry. But you may also want to take into account that this still presents an overly optimistic picture. Most of what visitors spend here goes to pay for imported goods - foreign foods in restaurants, foreign wares in shops, foreign-made cars to take them around town and even foreign cement, steel, glass and fittings for the hotels in which they stay. It is all deducted from the final figures for GDP. Meanwhile, very little of what Hong Kong residents buy on trips abroad comes from our exports to the countries they visit. If you want a wide economic benefit, you may do better to encourage Hong Kong people to stay at home. 'The employment opportunities ...' Let us get this straight about the tourism industry. It offers mostly low-paid menial jobs, the sort Hong Kong people increasingly no longer want to hold - waiting on visitors, cleaning up after them, driving them around, pitching them to buy knick-knacks - perfect employment opportunities in other words for labour migrants from the mainland and our southern neighbours, to whom the jobs will increasingly go. '... the career development opportunities ...' Pick an industry, if you can, in which there is less career development than in serving tourists. Journalism perhaps, but the range of possibilities is a small one. Let us have it again. The tourism industry is predominantly one of menial jobs. '... and the foreign exchange earnings from this source ...' Pardon me, Mr Tung, but did someone tell you that tourism is a good thing because it helps alleviate a shortage of foreign exchange in Hong Kong? Sack that adviser and get another. As the second chart shows, in the financial marketplace, Hong Kong's net external claims in all currencies, net of foreign liabilities, amounts at present to about HK$1.2 trillion, almost the size of our GDP. We are not short of foreign exchange, sir. We are deluged with the stuff and I have an idea for people who think as you do. Go sell coals to Newcastle. '... help to diversify our economy.' The word you are looking for is not 'diversify' but 'burden', as in burden our economy with expensive infrastructure projects to serve tourists, who, after accounting for all those imports, effectively leave little of their money with us. '... and provide jobs at all levels of our citizenship.' How many people at your level of citizenship wait on tables, make tourist beds and drive tourist coaches, Mr Tung? 'I am sure this reality is one all of us attending this conference appreciate.' I am sure they do, like wolves licking their chops at the sheepfold. Hong Kong taxpayers provide the money and tourism promoters collect it. Ain't the tourism industry a grand one?